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The Olympus 35-100mm f2 in Use

    Picked up the 35-100mm f2 yesterday, and within hours it was in use shooting one of the dimmest live performances I've done in a while, the dress rehearsal for Tapestry New OperaWork's production of The Shadow.

    This is a high speed medium telephoto zoom (the fastest lens in it’s focal range that I’m aware of) with an equivalent focal length of 70-200mm - the classic 'go to' lens of the working professional. It’s fully weather sealed, so on an E3 body it will give you a dust and moisture proof combo.

    Some scenes from The Shadow, a modern opera written by Alex Poch-Goldin and composed by Omar Daniel that will be enjoying a short run at the Berkeley Street Theatre Mainspace until May 30.

    It's a dark menacing tale with a very modern abstract score (atonality abounds). Having since been to the opening night, the score really seemed to start working for me in the latter half of the piece where there were more melodic fragments to contrast with the dissonance.

    The singing overall is terrific with Soprano Carla Huhtanen's Allegra and Bass Baritone Peter McGillvray's powerful vocal performance (seen above) plus CounterTenor Scott Belluz (below) as The Shadow particularly standing out.

    Tenor Keith Klassen adds some comic relief as the waiter.

    The lens when mated to an E30 body generally did an excellent job. Owing to the tightness of the space we had for shooting I photographed this opera all handheld.

    First impression - man this thing is big! I mean it's only a 35-100mm lens, but it’s the size of a Canon 300mm f4. Of course, it is also a very bright f2 and designs for high speed lenses are always going to make you pay a price in terms of size. But adding to a general impression of bigness is an almost comically over-sized lens hood (seal the bottom, put a handle on it, and you could put a pitcher of draft beer in there)

    Despite the size and weight I really didn't find it that taxing to do handheld for the hour and a half duration of the production. Every so often I'd just switch to using the 12-60mm on the other E30 and that would allow me to get the feeling back in my fingers. No all joking aside, it's really not that bad.

    It’s a good lens for isolating subjects as the fast aperture allows for softer burred backgrounds when shooting wide open, and in fact it was this more than the increase in effective shutter speed in low light, that I was looking for from the 35-100mm.

    Of course, everything works as advertised. Excellent sharpness wide open, nice contrast and saturation, focusing in dim, dim light was generally good.

    Michael Cooper was photographing the production for the house with a Nikon D3, and there were a few instances where he got a shot I didn't because of the camera failing to find focus in time. But generally the E30 seemed to keep up with the D3 surprisingly well.

    I had hoped to use the 35-100mm for street shooting, but might need a new plan for that. Pointing something this intimidating at strangers on the street may actually be illegal in some jurisdictions.

    However for indoor shoots it's perfect.

    All photos captured with the Olympus E30 w/ 35-100mm f2 lens
    All Rights Reserved.

    Source URL: http://gotobeskinnybitch.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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One Night Live Concert: Sting & Sheryl Crowe

    Did the big One Night Live fundraising concert at the Air Canada Centre last night featuring Sting, Sheryl Crowe, The Canadian Tenors and hosted by Chris Noth of Sex And The City fame.

    The publicist warned us beforehand that we would be on a riser behind the sound board, even measured the precise distance (150 feet) to the stage for us. This was good info to know in advance, and consequently I left the 35-100mm f2 at home favouring the 50-200mm w/ 1.4 teleconverter instead.

    The guy beside me, shooting for the Toronto Sun, had to lug two 1DMK3 bodies, a 5dMK2 w/battery grip, 400mm 2.8 lens, laptop, and video camera to the gig. He had so much stuff hanging off him that he cracked the rear LCD screen on one of the 1DMK3's in the elevator.

    That 400mm 2.8 should be sold with it's own jeep to mount it on, and with a 1.4 teleconveter added on the 5DMK2 it didn't have any more reach than my E30 w/ 50-200mm and 1.4, but obviously it was significantly brighter.

    From the distance we were shooting it was pretty difficult to see a photographic 'moment', so I just fired away every time they stepped out from behind the microphone.

    We got to shoot the first two songs for Sheryl Crowe, the first three for Sting, and nobody cared how many photos we took of Chris Noth :)

    The nice thing was, since the riser and people on it blocked the audience view behind, they sectioned off the first seven rows od seats behind us. After our songs were up we were allowed to sit in this section and watch the performance.
    Amazing. Finally a promoter who shows some apreciation for the free publicity they are getting. Usually we get escorted right out of the building as soon as our time is up.

    Sheryl Crowe seems a bit stiff live. I got the imnpression that she really doesn't enjoy the whole live performance thing. Seems to have a touch of stage fright which is odd considering how much experience she must have over the years.

    Sting on the other hand seems totally comfortable and completely at home on stage - like he was born with a bass guitar in hand howling Roxanne in the delivery room. He had a first rate band with him and was more adventurous in deviating from the recorded version of his songs than Sheryl Crowe, who pretty much did a note perfect greatest hits package. Not that it was bad. She had the whole audience on their feet by the end and got very warm and sustained applause for her set.

    Some of Sting's variations were more successful than others. He slowed Message In A Bottle down to a near ballad pacing, blending audience participation with fragments of other songs from the same LP, creating a hypnotic reverie that really highlighted the song structure of each melody. Energy-wise it was a low point for an audience that seemed impatient to party to the music at points, but I found it one of the highlights of what I saw of his set (had to leave mid-way)

    The guy has sold 100 million albums yet plays one of the most beat to cr@p bass guitars I've ever seen (close up on the monitor I wouldn't be surprised if parts are held together with gaffer tape)

    And speaking of guitars, isn't it about time Fender made female friendly versions of strats and telecasters. The regular sized ones look a little large and bulky on Sheryl's frame. Women have come a long way in rock from being just the back up singers.

    Nowadays they're the stars often as not. You'd think guitar manufacturers would have taken note. I'm not talking about messing with the shape of the Strat or Telecaster - that would be heresy! - just shrinking the proportions a bit. It's not so noticeable on this one, but with some of the shots the size of the guitar makes her look child-like. Not a good thing for an adult artist.

    All in all, an enjoyable evening. The unexpected bonus of being able to watch the show was a really nice surprise.

    All photos taken with the Olympus E30 camera and Digital Zuiko 50 - 200mm 2.8 lens with 1.4 Olympus teleconverter added.

    All Rights Reserved. No Reoproduction of photos or text allowed without written authorization.

    Source URL: http://gotobeskinnybitch.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Toronto Tamil Demonstration

    An image from one of the huge Tamil demonstrations held recently to urge the Canadian government to get more involved in the human tragedy unfolding in Sri Lanka.

    For days large numbers of Tamils have been gathering at points in the city then almost spontaneously moving to block traffic on major arteries as a way of calling attention to the unfolding horror in Sri Lanka.

    A large crowd on foot even walked up an on-ramp onto the Gardiner Expressway - a 6 lane highway that is the major artery into the downtown area - bringing the on-coming traffic, which was moving at highway speed, screeching to a halt and causing gridlock for hours (It took the intervention of the leader of the official opposition party to get them to come off the road)

    Here they are moving down Yonge Street, a main North/South route.

    The reason I was at Yonge and Queen St. that night was to shoot a red carpet event scheduled for the theatre in the background. I turned the corner and ... bam, ten thousand people are marching right over where it's supposed to happen.

    Obviously that plan never got off the ground.

    With large crowds shots like this it's best to find some kind of focus for the shot. I went up to a riot squad officer and asked if I could step out in front of them to do a shot of the line of police officers in the foreground, demonstrators behind (what the heck, I thought it was worth a try:)

    Got a predictably frosty response to that, and any other requests to somehow get around the line of police officers standing shoulder to shoulder blocking the view of the marchers, despite offering them press credentials.

    So moving up the street I found an opening in the police cordon and just stepped out into the flow of people joining the demonstrators. I slowly drifted down Yonge street, carried along by a human river of people, accompanied by polyrythmic drumming, chants and slogans shouted through megphones. Every so often I'd stop to shoot images as people moved around and past me.

    This shot was done with the Olympus E30 at 800 ISO, in live view with the flip out LCD angled downwards so I could hold the camera above head level. The lens used was the very sharp and lightweight Digital Zuiko 9-18mm lens.

    I think the Toronto Police are doing a superb job handling this emotional situation. They are out in force - and the riot police definitely don't look like a group you want to mess with - but are allowing a lot of leeway as these Canadian citizens go about exercising their right to call attention to what is happening in their homeland. It's a fine line, and Toronto's cops are showing the disciplne and planning that proves them to be a very professional police force.

    Toronto is home to one of the largest Tamil populations outside of Sri Lanka. Emotions among the demonstrators were very high. Numerous people stopped to talk to me, hand out press releases or gruesome photos from the war zone in Sri Lanka, and many tearfully thanked me for helping to focus attention on this human tragedy.

    All in all, a much more satisfying shoot than the just another red carpet event to feed our celebrity besotted culture.
    Earlier in the day I had been at the ROM photographing the opening of the Schad Gallery for Biodiversity, a major exhibit calling attention to the accelerating rate of species extinction.

    Some days you shoot nonsense all day long, other days you get to do important stuff that might play a small role in a much bigger drama.

    All text and photos copyright Torontowide.com. All Rights Reserved.
    Source URL: http://gotobeskinnybitch.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Sophie Milman @ First Canadian Place Waterfall Stage

    Jazz diva Sophie Milman did a quick promotional concert for the release of her second CD, Take Love Easy, at First Canadian Place's indoor Waterfall Stage on Thurs. Afterwards she did a CD signing session at the HMV store across form the stage.

    She treated the noontime audience to a very generous set, singing most of the album while accompanied by a first rate band that included many of Toronto's top session players including Kieran Overs and Roberto Occhipiniti.

    Sophie's love of the music is always right there on stage. She often seems to fall into a kind of joyful reverie mid-song as she listens to the interplay of the the various instruments during solo passages.

    Her new album is red-hot at the moment, debuting at #1 on the iTunes Canada Jazz chart. Sophie’s heart-wrenching take on “I Can’t Make You Love Me” sits as the #1 Jazz Single, with tracks “Take Love Easy”, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” and “My One and Only Love” also charting in the Top 10.

    Next up for the free noontime First Canadian Place concerts will be teen jazz sensation Nikki Yanofsky on May 13 (again, she will be doing a CD signing session at HMV after the show), the high energy boogie piano of Michael Kaeshammer on May 19, with more concerts coming for the summer when the series moves outdoors.
    All concerts start at 12:15 PM

    Photos shot with the Olympus E30 w/ Digital Zuiko 50-200mm 2.8 lens

    All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without prior written approval
    Source URL: http://gotobeskinnybitch.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Integral House and the Toronto Summer Music Festival

    For several years now people in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood have been watching an extraordinary 18,000 sq. ft. home take shape. The vision of renowned mathematician Dr. James Stewart, Integral House is clad in natural wood with dramatic frosted glass panels wrapped around the second floor. The entire structure has been built with the goal of becoming a premiere venue for classical musical performance.

    Situated in the heart of Rosedale on Roxborough Drive, and perched on the edge of a ravine over-looking the Don Valley Brickworks, the house offers calm, meditative panoramic views of the surrounding forest. Looking from the street the house is two stories, but you actually enter at the balconey level of the 2 storey performance space, then there are two more floors below cascading part way into ravine

    It is the interior performance space that really sets the house apart. Acousticians have determined the ideal placement of the balconies and wooden louvered structures that harness sound energy from the glass surfaces of the windows and project it outward.
    The floor is made of a special sound absorbing limestone so porous that red wine cannot be served at household functions lest any spills become permanent stains.

    There are three balconies overlooking the main performance area. Here is a shot from the right-hand one showing organisers at Sunday's fundraiser / launch event for The Toronto Summer Music Festival arranging chairs for the concert portion of the evening.

    Guests for the sold out $300 per ticket event were first treated to a scrumptuous meal, then the musical portion of the evening featuring Toronto's eclectic and energetic Tokai Quartet, followed by clarinettist Hubert Tanguay-Labrosse, a nineteen year old pheonom from Montreal, who joined the quartet for a final selection.

    I'd estimate that the capacity of the room, using all three balconies, could probably comfortably hold slightly over one hundred people, which makes for a very intimate concert space.

    The room itself has a bright, lively sound that maintains good separation between the instruments accurately conveying their tone and nuance. The Tokai Quartet sounded great, as usual.
    It was a very dimly lit concert. I talked to someone from the architect's office who said eventually lighting will be installed on the side walls to illuminate the artists better.

    All in all Integral House has to be one of the most unique performance spaces in the country.
    In it's finishings, the purpose-built interior has the same attention to detail, and many of the sound-isolating principles, as the Four Seasons Centre. From the moment you enter the room there is an air of seriousness about it. You know this will not be a concert thrown together in someone's living room, but a high fidelty musical experience.

    Although brand new, in fact some areas of the 2nd floor are yet to be finished, it's almost as if the city should slap a heritage designation on the building right now to ensure it's uniqueness will survive well into the future.

    Beautiful space, beautiful music, Sunday evening's event bodes well for the upcoming Toronto Summer Music Festival.

    For further information on the Toronto Summer Music Festival, check out Torontowide's Symphony section listing for full details.

    Photos done with Olympus E30 cameras, with Digital Zuiko 9-18mm f4 lens, and Digital Zuiko 12-60mm 2.8 lens @ between 400 and 2500 ISO.

    All photos and text copyright Torontowide.com. No reproduction in any medium is allowed without written authorization. All rights reserved.

    Source URL: http://gotobeskinnybitch.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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